Almond Baked Chicken & Spicy Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes

After traveling over the past few weeks for a wedding (Congratulations Jenny* & Andy!), visiting friends, and work, I was excited to get back in the kitchen this past Sunday to try out some new recipes.  Visiting new places and trying new foods always motivates/inspires me to cook.  I was in Charleston, SC for a work conference, and the food was amazing!  One of my favorite dishes was composed of fried green tomatoes, creamy grits, country ham, tomato jam, and finished with tomato butter.  Delicious doesn’t even begin to describe how good it was!  Once tomatoes are in season again next summer, I plan on trying to recreate it.  In the meantime, I went with more of a fall dish that incorporates some of my favorite foods: quinoa, sweet potatoes, and almond butter.  I also have a butternut squash apple cider bisque lined up to make this week so keep an eye out for that recipe too!  The almond baked chicken is something that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.  Store the unbaked cutlets between parchment paper and freeze for future dinners!

1/2 cup almond butter
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
All-purpose  flour, for dredging
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

For the quinoa:
1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups chicken broth
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon cumin
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 1/2 to 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 400º F.  Toss the panko breadcrumbs with the extra-virgin olive oil (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) and 1 teaspoon kosher salt on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake, stirring a few times, until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Whisk the almond butter, milk, honey and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.  Dredge the chicken in flour, coat with the almond butter mixture, then roll in the toasted panko.  Transfer for a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 450º F, flipping once, until cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes (12 to 15 minutes if cutlets are frozen).

IMG_6087IMG_6088 IMG_6089 For the quinoa (you can prepare this ahead of the chicken since it takes longer):  Thoroughly rinse the quinoa to help remove bitterness.  Transfer the quinoa to a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until the quinoa is dry, about 8 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, 3/4 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat to medium low and cover, leaving lid slightly ajar.  Cook until the quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Place in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion and garlic and IMG_6086cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add the chipotle chili powder, cayenne pepper, fennel seeds, and cumin and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the remaining chicken broth, the jalapeno, sweet potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are tender and about 3/4 of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Combine the sweet potato mixture and the quinoa.  Add the cilantro and lime juice and toss.  Serve with the almond baked chicken and enjoy!


*Be sure to check out my cousin Jenny and her best friend Crystal’s fabulous blog How Do you Bff?

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